Some people may confuse Crohn's disease with another condition called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but they are not as related as one might think. This condition is considered an inflammatory bowel disease, indicating that an infection is present anywhere from the top of the esophagus to the rectum. IBS and other gastrointestinal conditions are generally limited to the intestines and colon, however, without the redness and swelling found with Crohn's disease.
The actual cause of Crohn's disease still remains a mystery, but many researchers suspect it is a reaction to a virus or chronic condition such as rheumatoid arthritis. This is why it is considered an autoimmune disease — the body itself generates the conditions necessary for a flare-up. Sufferers often experience painful abdominal cramping, frequent bowel movements, diarrhea and general fatigue. Although stress is not considered a trigger, the cumulative effects of the symptoms can cause social anxiety and stress.
Crohn's disease can suddenly appear at any age, but the majority of cases seem to begin between the ages of 15 and 30. Caucasian women are especially susceptible, although the reason is not clear. The disease can also flare up later in life, often in conjunction with other age-related conditions.
Treatment plans often include a change in diet and an increase in exercise. Crohn's disease has been known to go into remission, or at least become cyclical. During an active flare-up, sections of the intestinal walls become so inflamed that normal defecation and elimination can be painful. Over-the-counter medications for diarrhea or constipation may prove helpful.
Currently there is no cure for Crohn's disease, although there are a number of researchers working to find one. For sufferers, there are support groups available in many parts of the world, and online discussion groups may also provide up-to-date information on the latest treatments and research efforts.
Crohn's disease is considered to be chronic, meaning it will exist for a patient's lifetime, but not terminal. The symptoms may complicate other medical conditions, however. It is important to stay hydrated in order to prevent an overall loss of body fluids. Some people with this disease also suffer from fibromyalgia or other fatiguing conditions, so a combination of proper rest and exercise should be practiced as well.